When scientists opened a sample container dropped from an asteroid onto a remote island, they were surprised to find an unexpected treat inside: fragments of ten million-year-old star dust. The dust is of incredible significance because it offers clues to the formation of our solar system.
The dust was collected from the asteroid Bennu, a carbon-rich research target that scientists think makes up much of what the Earth’s core was made of. Pieces of the sample, ranging in size from micrometers to millimeters, were sent down by a spacecraft into a container that dropped onto a remote island in the Pacific Ocean.
Surprisingly, the dust particles turned out to be much older than expected. Scientists believe they formed during the first few million years of the solar system’s history, meaning that they formed well before the planets and larger bodies.
It’s still unclear exactly what role the dust may have played in the early days of our solar system’s formation. The new samples of star dust could give us a better understanding of how the solar system developed, helping us to better understand our place in it.